My hero: Nelson Mandela, by Rene Carayol

07 January 2015 -


The renowned business leadership speaker, facilitator and compere talks to us about the person he most admires – South Africa’s late former president

Rene Carayol

Recently, I gave a talk on Nelson Mandela – an organisation sent round an email requesting speakers, but nobody considered themselves worthy of talking about him. That is the wrong response: he is the greatest leader of our generation, and it is worth explaining why.

As I was lucky enough to have met him a few times, I stepped up.

The best leaders know when to leave. Mandela stepped down after just one, four-year term. The current average for African leaders is about 20 years. His decision to bow out sent a strong message that he was a different sort of leader – it was about the people, not himself.

I went to the 2010 football World Cup final in South Africa. Not many people realised that it would be Mandela’s last appearance. He didn’t say a word – all he did was wave and smile and the whole stadium stood to salute him. Sometimes you don’t need to say anything.

When South Africa hosted and won the rugby World Cup in 1995, nobody gave the team a chance – the country had been banned from international competition for years. However, before the final, Mandela turned up and stunned everyone by wearing a Springboks cap. He brought the nation together at that moment and enabled the team to have 43 million people cheering them on to victory.

For more thoughts about authenticity in leadership, sign up to this forthcoming CMI seminar.

Image of Nelson Mandela courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.

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